Talking about the weather is always a great way to break the ice with strangers. There’s always something to say about heat, humidity, snow, rain and more.
So it’s no wonder that weather tools make for popular websites or downloadable apps. If a storm is coming or the summer heat is rising, it’s handy to glance down at your phone to see how the weather is progressing hour by hour.
Here are some weather tools and tips we think you’ll find helpful for whatever Mother Nature has in store. We also have a warning about one popular weather site.
Interactive app helps you stay on top of the weather
The Weather Underground app offers a wealth of weather information and it’s interactive. If you want to check the weather in your area or somewhere else, simply drop a pin in a neighborhood.
From there you’ll get the usual information such as temperature, humidity, wind speeds, hour-by-hour and 10-day forecasts, air quality, satellite maps and more.
Weather Underground also lets you compare today’s weather against historical data and there’s a handy health section that lets you monitor local flu outbreaks. You can keep an eye on global storms in the Tropical Storm section and sign up for alerts when extreme weather is on the way.
You can also watch the storms with one of the many real-time weather webcams, thumb through hundreds of gorgeous weather photos, listen to weather radio and have access to many more online resources.
Check on friends and family caught in massive storms and natural disasters
The Safe & Well website, operated by the American Red Cross, is vital if you or a loved one live in areas where extreme weather or weather-related events occur, such as hurricanes, tornadoes, flooding and wildfires.
People can put their names on the Safe and Well List, which friends and family can search in the immediate aftermath of a disaster. This site can certainly help bring peace of mind.
App predicts exactly when rain or snow will hit
Dark Sky is a great app to have if you live in areas with frequent rain or snow. Why? It provides detailed information and predicts down to the minute when it will rain or snow at your exact location to help you plan for the day or week. The app uses your phone’s GPS to know exactly where you are standing.
It has a number of built-in notification options that provide rain and severe weather alerts. You can also set your own custom notifications.
The app is available at the iOS Store for $3.99. On the Google Play Store, the app is free. For both versions, you can upgrade to a premium app for a price.
Reputable site accepts donations for disaster relief
The American Red Cross is often the go-to for donating money for relief efforts following a severe weather event. But there are other legitimate sites that have been vetted by the BBB Wise Giving Alliance, Charity Navigator and CharityWatchWatch to make sure you’re not being scammed.
Direct Relief gets a thumbs up from the BBB Wise Giving Alliance. It collects donations not only for weather-related disasters in the U.S. but also around the globe.
Plus, it provides assistance beyond weather events. This year it has donated personal protection equipment in the Democratic Republic of Congo as it fights a massive Ebola outbreak that has now crossed the border into Uganda.
Protecting your personal data
Some weather apps with well-known names offer a number of great features. But the price for getting those apps may be your privacy.
In January, the Los Angeles City Attorney’s office filed a lawsuit against the Weather Channel app claiming that the company operating the app is tracking user location data and selling it for profit.
The Los Angeles City Attorney’s office said users of the app were misled into giving up their location data in exchange for personalized weather updates and alerts.
Other popular iPhone and Android apps engaging in the process of collecting and selling personal information include WeatherBug, Accuweather and GasBuddy.